Three Poems by Joanna Ingham


Poetry by Joanna Ingham


Man in white van tells me to fuck off back to London


I wonder if it’s my coat,

my arch suede boots,

how he knows I lost this place 

of skies and pebbles,

this place that snags

like buoys caught in the nets.


I am edging the beach, 

the marsh road, Sizewell 

mushrooming white ahead 

and I want to say

no, this is mine too, was.


I want to tell him

I dream in sea shades still,

hear the shingle undertow

a hundred miles inland.



Nuclear medicine scan


For twenty-four hours afterwards

I am untouchable. It is forbidden 

to touch another’s mutable

body. I lie alone in a wide bed

and think of the narrow one

in the scanner room, my kidneys

glowing gold on the screen

like twin cities at night

when seen from space, full

of hidden business, cleaners

still at work in the offices,

pubs letting out into the streets.

My ureters are motorways

lit by the stream of car lamps.

I hope there are not too many

accidents, too many people crying

in apartment blocks, knifings

in alleyways. I hope that things

are as they should be. The isotopes

chug like trains out of town –

tomorrow they will be gone

and the lights will go out one

by one, but not because it’s the end.

The inhabitants will be left

with all their longings,

to stroke each other softly in the dark.



Ovariotomy for large cystoadenoma ovarii

a short film in the Wellcome Collection


We only see the woman for a few seconds at the very end,

lying in her hospital bed in 1933, arms neat across the sheets.

She looks at the camera without expression, hair bobbed

as if she’d had a chance to comb it when she came round.


Before this she has been an abdomen, framed from throat

to groin, small breasts, racks of ribs, belly of course, distended 

and diseased. The movie is silent but instead of men fighting 

comically on top of trains, there are only hands in rubber gloves,


the intertitles in an attractive font explaining things like

the abdominal incision is para-median or after the tumour

is exposed, the hand is introduced or a fluctuant area is selected

and Lawson Tait’s Trocar is inserted to drain the loculus.


Maybe it’s easier to watch like this, in black and white. 

Sir Harold Beckwith is unrushed, cutting, clamping,

stitching, pointing so that we might more readily notice

the fallopian tube, very much elongated, the tri-radiate pedicle.


The longest part is the closing up, like a flower opening

in reverse time-lapse, the layers of membrane and skin 

rebudding themselves until the wound is a puckered curve

like a mouth with no words. Then there’s the cyst itself,


beached on a metal tray like some revolting white octopus.

Sir Harold slices it apart, stands back a little to let the contents 

flood out over the edge of the table, lifts strands of sticky mucin 

for us to fully appreciate what he has been dealing with.




Joanna Ingham’s pamphlet Naming Bones (ignitionpress) was published in 2019. Her poetry has been widely published in magazines including Ambit, Magma, Mslexia, The North, Under the Radar and BBC Wildlife. It has appeared in The Sunday Times and The Best British Poetry 2012 (Salt). She currently teaches at City Lit. Joanna studied creative writing at Birkbeck College and also writes fiction. In 2019 she was awarded a Developing Your Creative Practice grant from Arts Council England.

11 March 2020